COVID-19 Updates and Announcements

Detail of a caduceus in the 1968 bronze bas-relief by Virgil Cantini at Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Dedicated to Shadyside physician W.D. Richards, the artwork depicts the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment and was healed (Luke 8:43-48).

Services of worship at Shadyside Presbyterian Church continue to be held on-site and online. All individuals are asked to wear masks while in the building. Most church-related activities will continue to occur online, and the church office is open during weekday business hours. The COVID-19 Task Force continues to meet regularly to monitor data and to prayerfully discern our path forward.

Although pre-registration is no longer required to attend worship, other safety precautions and protocols remain in effect. To better prepare you for what to expect as you return to on-site worship, please visit this page of the church website to review current worship practices.

We are committed to continuing to offer a virtual worship option so that you may join us remotely. You may access the video here on our website, from our YouTube channel, or from our Facebook page. Visit the live webcast page to access worship documents, including the bulletin and the children’s bulletin in .pdf format.

Selected Highlights from Previous COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 Task Force

In June 2020, the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church formed a COVID-19 Task Force to continue the prayerful discernment process regarding how and when we might begin the gradual return to our building. With direction from the government and the medical community, this task force will develop our own guidelines specific to our conditions, in addition to a timeline for resuming certain activities on the church premises.

Along with the Reverend Lynn Portz, the task force is comprised of Trustee Alex Dick and Elders Don Coffelt, Brigetta Del Re, Rob Ferguson, Carla Gedman, Jim Gockley, Bob Luthultz, and Alex Viehman. Each of these individuals has committed to meeting regularly and often in order to give these matters the careful and faithful consideration required. Other staff members and experts will serve in an advisory capacity as needed.

Please keep the task force in your prayers as they make important decisions for the well-being of our congregation. We will communicate further with you as plans emerge; meanwhile, if you have concerns or thoughts to share, you are welcome to contact any member of the task force through the church office.

Policy and Protocols

In September 2020, the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church approved the COVID-19 Task Force’s proposed policy and protocols document. Access the current version of these guidelines at www.shadysidepres.org/covid-19/guidelines.

Care Team Support for Vaccination Process

The Care Team of Shadyside Presbyterian Church has the availability to aid congregation members with navigating the many websites to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments. These folks are vaccinated and can bring a laptop computer to your home to assist in this process. We also have vaccinated members that are available to transport congregants to vaccine appointments. Please let us know if you, or anyone you know, is in need of assistance. You may contact Linda Leach, Care Team leader, through the church office.

Congregational Letters

  • October: The Session has mailed a letter to all members on October 31, 2020, in order to update the congregation about the resumption of on-site Sunday worship in a limited capacity. Click here to read the letter on the church website if you did not receive your copy through the United States Postal Service.
  • September: The Session has mailed a letter to all members on September 28, 2020, in order to update the congregation on the approval of a policy and protocols for the phased re-opening of the church. Click here to read the letter on the church website if you did not receive your copy through the United States Postal Service.
  • August: The pastors have mailed a letter to all members on August 20, 2020, in order to update the congregation for the upcoming new program year. Click here to read the letter on the church website if you did not receive your copy through the United States Postal Service.
  • July: The COVID-19 Task Force sent a congregational letter to all members on July 13, 2020, in order to share with you some considerations and factors guiding their discernment process for the gradual re-opening of the church building and offices. Click here to read the letter on the church website if you did not receive your copy through the United States Postal Service.
  • June: The pastors of Shadyside Presbyterian Church sent a congregational letter to all members on June 1, 2020. In case you did not receive it via the United States Postal Service, you may read the letter online by clicking here. Also enclosed in this mailing was a notice of the annual meetings of the corporation and congregation to be held electronically on Sunday, June 14, at noon. Learn more.

eGiving Options

Shadyside Presbyterian Church is pleased to offer secure eGiving options during this especially challenging time in order to encourage faithful stewardship among our congregation. Read the full article to learn more about these options, and then visit the giving area of the church website to select the best option for you and begin a new gift.

COVID-19 Relief Fund

Shadyside Presbyterian Church has established a COVID-19 relief fund to support individuals and families experiencing economic hardships due to the coronavirus countermeasures. In this video message, the Reverend Todd E. Leach explains the purpose of the fund, outlines who may benefit from it, and invites those who are able to donate. If your situation allows you to do so, you may make a financial contribution by giving online through the church website, selecting the COVID-19 Relief Fund. You may also send a check made payable to “Shadyside Presbyterian Church” with “COVID-19 Relief Fund” in the memo line to the attention of the Finance Office at the church. Thank you for your generosity and your concern for our neighbors.

By God’s Side

On August 12, 2020, Shadyside Presbyterian Church introduced By God’s Side, a weekly series of inspirational reflections from the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles, to support you in your spiritual journey. These pastoral messages appear in the blog section of the church website each week. (Our weekly e-newsletter includes an excerpt to remind you to read along with us regularly; click here to subscribe to the e-newsletter if you do not already receive it.) We hope this regular feature will help you to draw closer to God’s side in your life of faith. Begin reading here.

The Quarantined Kitchen

Through this new weekly feature on the church website blog, Chef Steven Bright shares ideas and recipes to help you stay healthy by eating well during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit The Quarantined Kitchen.

Local Mission Partner Updates

Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) has been in communication with our local mission partners regarding needs and responses to COVID-19. Many of our partners have already been impacted financially, with some having to lay off staff. In addition to concerns for their staff, they are greatly concerned for their clients. Their repeated and greatest request was for prayer, but that was soon followed by expressed need for funding. SPC will respond to financial needs as our budget allows, but Rev. Todd Leach has shared a summary of the ways you may be able to pray more specifically. Read the full update from our mission partners.

Choices You Can Make to Stay Emotionally Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In light of the recent stay-at-home order for Allegheny County issued by the governor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church shares with you suggestions to promote emotional health as we face an extended time of physical separation from our community of faith. Read the full list of suggestions.

Additional Resources

To read all previous COVID-19 announcements, visit the coronavirus archive by clicking here.

Architectural Photograph: Detail of a caduceus in the 1968 bronze bas-relief by Virgil Cantini at Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Dedicated to Shadyside physician W.D. Richards, the artwork depicts the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment and was healed (Luke 8:43-48).

Update from Session

On-Site Worship to Resume April 18

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

The Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church recently approved the recommendation of the COVID-19 Task Force that on-site worship may resume on Sunday, April 18. Attendance limitations and safety measures will be in effect.

To better prepare you for what to expect as you return to on-site worship, here are several key guidelines that have been put in place to minimize risk to those who wish to worship in person:

  • While we all are eager to be together again, we acknowledge that each individual must carefully consider many factors in deciding whether to attend any in-person event. We strongly encourage everyone to demonstrate love and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ by making choices that will protect their health and well-being, as well as your own. With that in mind, we advise you to continue to attend worship virtually in the following instances:
    • You meet any criteria that place you at higher risk for severe illness as published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
    • You do not feel well, or you have flu-like symptoms;
    • You have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic;
    • You regularly come into contact with large crowds or greater numbers of people.
  • If you decide to attend Sunday worship in person, you must pre-register, either via the church’s website at www.shadysidepres.org/register or by calling the church office: 412.682.4300, ext. 100. Registration will open at noon on the Monday prior to the Sunday service and will close when the seating capacity is met, or by noon on the Friday prior to the Sunday service. Please register your family unit as a single seating group. Only those with reservations will be able to attend worship that Sunday.
  • Please take your temperature at home before leaving. The ushers will have a contactless thermometer if you forget to take your temperature. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher should worship virtually.
  • You are asked to allow for extra time upon arrival, remain six feet apart from other groups, and wear a mask if you are two years old or older. Please make sure your entire family unit enters together as a single group.
  • The ushers will receive one group at a time either in the Narthex, or through the coat room door on Westminster Place, and will direct you to the next available pew. Families will be permitted to sit together, up to a maximum of four adults/teenagers (plus children under twelve). Children should remain with their parents at all times. Also, members who are not related, but who have had multiple personal interactions and exposure with each other during the pandemic, may request to be seated together.
  • Please be aware that masks should be worn at all times.
  • All pew cushions, Bibles, and hymnals have been removed to aid in the cleaning and sanitizing of the sanctuary.
  • While we cannot safely bring back our tremendous choir, our service of worship will feature some musical elements, including organ and instrumental music and vocal soloists.
  • You can drop off your pledge offering in a large basket as you depart the sanctuary, or continue with mail-in contributions. Online giving also remains an option; please visit www.shadysidepres.org/give for details.
  • At the end of the service, please wait for an usher to dismiss you, and continue your social distancing once outside the sanctuary.
  • The water fountains will be disabled, and only the restrooms near the Craig Room will be available, with occupancy restricted to one person at a time.
  • There will be no nursery service, no in-person Christian education, and no time of fellowship after the service. Children’s chapel and adult education classes will continue to take place online only.
  • Please know that the church is committed to following the COVID-19 protocols for cleaning and sanitizing the sanctuary, both before and after each service.

The full COVID-19 policy and protocols approved by Session can be found on the church’s website at www.shadysidepres.org/covid-19/guidelines.

We ask for your patience and cooperation with these protocols to ensure a successful return to worship within our sanctuary. The church realizes that many of these changes are not what we would prefer; however, the health and safety of members and staff is of the highest priority. Though we have never stopped worshipping, the task force is thrilled to present this plan that will bring us together in our beloved sanctuary. We are indeed one family, united in Christ, whether we worship together in person or virtually.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and support during this transition, and please feel free to contact the church office should you have any questions.

We also thank the COVID-19 Task Force for their tireless efforts in their ongoing work: Elder Donald P. Coffelt Jr.; Elder Brigetta P. Del Re; Trustee Alexander G. Dick; Elder Robert J. Ferguson; Elder Carla M. Gedman; Elder James M. Gockley; Elder Robert B. Luthultz, chair;  Reverend Lynn M. Portz; and Elder J. Alexander Viehman.

Update from COVID-19 Task Force

On-Site Worship to Resume Nov. 15

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

Dear members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church:

The Shadyside Presbyterian Church COVID-19 Task Force has been meeting weekly since its formation in mid-June, carefully monitoring the number of new cases and positivity rates, as well as state and county guidelines. During the September meeting of Session, our elders approved a summary of policies and protocols regarding staff returning to the offices, small group gatherings, and returning to on-site worship. Those protocols can be found on the church’s website at www.shadysidepres.org/covid-19/guidelines.

The staff has been back in the offices since September 14, and, adhering to state guidelines, small groups of twenty-five or fewer have been permitted in the building, as well. On Friday, October 9, new guidelines from the state went into effect for indoor gatherings, which would allow individuals and families to worship in our sanctuary.

With the safety and well-being of our members and guests as a top priority, the pastors, the Session, the Board of Trustees, and the task force have decided that we can return to on-site worship on Sunday, November 15, albeit with many new and necessary safety protocols. We ask for your patience and cooperation with these protocols to ensure a successful return to worship within our sanctuary.

The task force also has decided that the virtual service that is offered online every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. will continue, even after on-site worshipping resumes, for those who are not comfortable returning yet. Additionally, please know that the Trustees are well along in equipping the sanctuary for livestreaming video, so that those who are worshipping at home will be enjoying the same worship experience as those who are gathered in the sanctuary. And as state guidelines continue to be relaxed, the task force will allow greater numbers of people to attend our services on-site.

To better prepare you for what to expect as you return to on-site worship, here are several key guidelines that have been put in place to minimize risk to those who wish to worship in person:

  • While we all are eager to be together again, we acknowledge that each individual must carefully consider many factors in deciding whether to attend any in-person event. We strongly encourage everyone to demonstrate love and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ by making choices that will protect their health and well-being, as well as your own. With that in mind, we advise you to continue to attend worship virtually in the following instances:
    • You meet any criteria that place you at higher risk for severe illness as published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
    • You do not feel well, or you have flu-like symptoms;
    • You have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic;
    • You regularly come into contact with large crowds or greater numbers of people.
  • If you decide to attend Sunday worship in person, you must pre-register, either via the church’s website at www.shadysidepres.org/register or by calling the church office: 412.682.4300, ext. 100. Registration will open at noon on the Monday prior to the Sunday service and will close when the seating capacity is met, or by noon on the Friday prior to the Sunday service. Please register your family unit as a single seating group. Only those with reservations will be able to attend worship that Sunday; however, if you are unable to register due to capacity limitations, you will be allowed to register for the following Sunday in advance of that week’s open registration.
  • Please take your temperature at home before leaving. The ushers will have a contactless thermometer if you forget to take your temperature. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher should worship virtually.
  • You are asked to allow for extra time upon arrival, remain six feet apart from other groups, and wear a mask if you are two years old or older. Please make sure your entire family unit enters together as a single group.
  • The ushers will receive one group at a time either in the Narthex, or through the coat room door on Westminster Place, and will direct you to the next available pew. Families will be permitted to sit together, up to a maximum of four adults/teenagers (plus children under twelve). Children should remain with their parents at all times. Also, members who are not related, but who have had multiple personal interactions and exposure with each other during the pandemic, may request to be seated together.
  • Please be aware that masks should be worn at all times, and that there will be no singing or responses from the congregation in order to minimize risk.
  • All pew cushions, Bibles, and hymnals have been removed to aid in the cleaning and sanitizing of the sanctuary.
  • While we cannot safely bring back our tremendous choir, our service of worship will feature some musical elements, including organ and instrumental music and vocal soloists.
  • You can drop off your pledge offering in a large basket as you depart the sanctuary, or continue with mail-in contributions. Online giving also remains an option; please visit www.shadysidepres.org/give for details.
  • At the end of the service, please wait for an usher to dismiss you, and continue your social distancing once outside the sanctuary.
  • The water fountains will be disabled, and only the restrooms near the Craig Room will be available, with occupancy restricted to one person at a time.
  • There will be no nursery service, no in-person Christian education, and no time of fellowship after the service. Children’s chapel and adult education classes will continue to take place online only.
  • Please know that the church is committed to following the COVID-19 protocols for cleaning and sanitizing the sanctuary, both before and after each service.

The task force realizes that many of these changes are not what we would prefer; however, the health and safety of members and staff is of the highest priority. Though we have never stopped worshipping, the task force is thrilled to present this plan that will bring us together in our beloved sanctuary. We are indeed one family, united in Christ, whether we worship together in person or virtually.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and support during this transition, and please feel free to contact the church office should you have any questions.

In hopeful anticipation of our gathering,
The COVID-19 Task Force of the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church
Elder Donald P. Coffelt Jr.; Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles; Elder Brigetta P. Del Re; Trustee Alexander G. Dick;
Elder Robert J. Ferguson; Elder Carla M. Gedman; Elder James M. Gockley; Elder Robert B. Luthultz, chair;
Reverend Lynn M. Portz; and Elder J. Alexander Viehman

Note: Due to the lead time involved in the production of The Church Mouse newsletter, the worship schedule included in the November issue does not reflect this more current information. Should you receive your letter via the United States Postal Service prior to your copy of the Mouse, please be aware that the newsletter was prepared much earlier and is delivered by a slower mail rate. The printed worship schedule still accurately presents opportunities for virtual worship but does not contain information about limited in-person worship detailed in the mailing and above.

Important: The task force is closely monitoring the current increase in cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Presently, Allegheny County is within the parameters which allow us to worship safely via the protocols established by the SPC COVID-19 Task Force. Though it is our fervent prayer that the way will remain clear for us to proceed as planned, the task force is prepared to reverse this decision if conditions require us to change course. In the event of an emergency cancellation of worship, registrants will be notified and the church website will be updated. Please continue to check the church website for ongoing updates.

Congregational Letter

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

An Update from Session

Dear members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC):

As our pastors shared recently, we are very grateful to all of you for your faith, patience, and fortitude. COVID-19 is challenging us, but this is not the first time Christ’s Church has been challenged. The Church has been forced home before, and we are certain to rise.

As much as we know that everyone misses seeing one another in person, we are not there yet. But, we have a plan, and we are excited to share parts of that plan with you now.

On September 14, the church building was re-opened to our pastors and staff, and, as of September 28, is available by appointment to members and visitors, on a limited basis. We emphasize the importance of appointments, because visitors will be required to comply with our in-person guidelines, which you may read on the church website: www.shadysidepres.org/covid-19.

Also as of September 28, the church plans to permit in-person pastoral gatherings, including weddings, funerals, and memorial services, to occur on the premises. Attendance at these events will be constrained by the current Allegheny County restrictions (limiting indoor gatherings to a maximum of twenty-five people as of September 24), but we know how important these events are in the life of our church family. Please understand these plans could change as the County and Commonwealth guidelines change.

Finally, the Session has approved a plan that returns in-person worship to our sanctuary. To be clear, we never stopped worshipping. This is a plan to bring us back together physically — an important and very emotional step forward. We will begin in-person worship within a few weeks after Allegheny County increases the permitted indoor gathering limit to 100 people or more.

The SPC COVID-19 Task Force includes the Reverend Dr. John Dalles; the Reverend Lynn Portz; Trustee Alex Dick; and Elders Don Coffelt, Brigetta Del Re, Rob Ferguson, Carla Gedman, Jim Gockley, Bob Luthultz, and Alex Viehman. The entire church staff has contributed tremendously to the effective work of the task force; their insights, energies, and dedication are deeply appreciated. Together, they and the task force are working hard and carefully to bring us together safely and soon.

With grace and peace,

Elder Timothy E. Nye
Clerk of Session

The Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

Pastoral Letter

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

A Congregational Update for the New Program Year

Dear members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church:

We are so grateful to all of you for your faith, patience, and fortitude throughout these past months as COVID-19 has brought necessary reconsideration and restructuring of our church life. The Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) COVID-19 Task Force (formerly the Back-to-Church Task Force) continues to meet weekly, paying close attention to the science and data about COVID-19, comparing notes with other churches throughout our region, and prayerfully considering best practices for the health and safety of our congregation.

We know that everyone misses seeing one another in person. As your pastors, we feel that loss profoundly. We understand that being unable to worship in person as the body of Christ is no small thing. It is also true that we are learning new ways of being the body of Christ during this time. We rejoice in the generosity that our congregation has exhibited in caring for one another and our mission partners. The words of support from all of you to one another and to our leadership have provided both encouragement and hope. Our online worship services continue to draw a wonderful diversity of people from a wide range of geographic locations. Other virtual ministry gatherings continue to provide rich and deeply faithful opportunities for learning and fellowship. And as we approach the beginning of a new program year, we are so excited for all of the new (or newly structured) ways we will be participating in Christ’s work! Please see below to learn more about some of these opportunities and discover ways you can be involved.

As we look to the year ahead, we embrace a mindset of flexibility and grace. Plans are underway for the staff to return to the church office in stages over the coming weeks. In time, we then hope to open the building for smaller gatherings of a pastoral nature. In the coming weeks, you will receive communications from the SPC COVID-19 Task Force, including anticipated timeline, hours of operation for the church office, and safety protocols.

While we look forward to these developments, we also recognize that plans may change depending on fluctuating virus positivity rates, as well as state and county guidelines. We remain committed to communicating with you on a regular basis as circumstances change and decisions are made. Updates are available on the church website at www.shadysidepres.org/covid-19 and the church office answering message (412-682-4300). The church also sends multiple email messages each week to keep members informed and to provide convenient links for accessing online opportunities. If you are not receiving these messages, please contact the church office to share your updated email address with us; you may find it most convenient to send your subscription request to info@shadysidepres.org.

Please know that the grace of God remains visible in our community of faith, and that the vitality of our congregation continues during this unexpected and challenging time. Together, let us seek to discover the new things God is doing in our midst! We hold all of you in our prayers, and we request your prayers as well.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor and Head of Staff
jdalles@shadysidepres.org

Rev. Lynn M. Portz
Associate Pastor for Parish Life
lportz@shadysidepres.org

Rev. Todd E. Leach
Associate Pastor for Missions
tleach@shadysidepres.org

Rev. Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith
Temporary Associate Pastor
ksmith@shadysidepres.org

Virtual Opportunities: Fall 2020

Worship

  • Virtual services of worship continue each week on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. through the church website, Facebook, and YouTube.
  • Midweek vespers will resume on Wednesday, September 16, at 7:00 p.m.
  • We especially look forward to celebrating World Communion Sunday on October 4! Our ability to worship virtually will allow us to share in this experience with some of our mission partners from around the globe, together celebrating the Lord’s Supper, in which Christ unites us with all people of every time and place.

Care and Support

  • Grief Support Group will continue to meet online monthly, resuming on Monday, September 21.
  • Prayer gatherings occur online on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. and Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • Caring ministries continue through the Deacons and Care Team. Please reach out to us!

Fellowship

  • All are welcome to join our virtual Time of Fellowship every Sunday following the service of worship.
  • “Happier Hours” will resume in September. Parents and friends gather online for fellowship on Thursday evenings after their children are in bed.

Mission and Urban Ministry

  • Ministry with our various mission partners continues, connecting us with members of Christ’s body near and far.
  • Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) is sponsoring Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s McClure Lecture Series, “Jesus Christ and the ‘Dividing Wall’: Race and God’s Mission.” The lectures will take place online each Wednesday evening in October at 7:30?p.m., followed by national conversations, then a time for SPC members to meet together.

Children’s and Youth Ministries

  • Our youngest disciples continue to gather online for Children’s Chapel each week before Sunday worship.
  • Ask a Pastor: Conversations between Children’s Ministry staff and pastors will help children grapple with some of their more challenging questions about life and faith.
  • Our youth in grades six through twelve will connect weekly — sometimes virtually and sometimes in person for outdoor, physically distanced prayer, games, and service opportunities.
  • Youth will help to plan and lead an online Bible study for children.

Adult Ministry

  • Adult Christian Education studies occur online before worship on Sunday mornings. New studies begin September 13.
  • Friday Evening Scripture and Prayer: Participants spend time reading the daily lectionary and praying together online at 7:30 p.m.
  • A new book study group for families and parents will begin in the fall.

Other Exciting News

  • Through the Quarantined Kitchen, published in the blog section of the church website, Chef Steven Bright shares recipes and ideas to help you stay healthy by eating well during the pandemic.
  • On the evening of Monday, October 5, we will host a New Members’ Welcome Meeting online. Do you know of someone who has been participating in the life of Shadyside? Please invite them to consider becoming a member!
  • We are excited to welcome our new student pastor, Wesley Smith, from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in September.

We would love to hear from you! What are other ways you feel God calling you to connect with and serve in the Shadyside Presbyterian Church community? Please reach out to any of the pastors or contact the church office.

Update from Back-to-Church Task Force

A Message from the Back-to-Church Task Force

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

Dear Shadyside Presbyterian Church Family:

As the Back-to-Church Task Force begins to make recommendations regarding the re-opening of the church building and offices, we wanted to share with you some considerations and factors that we are using to guide us as we make these challenging decisions. We have been prayerfully meeting on a weekly basis since the Session commissioned this task force on June 17.

Our first mission has been to focus on how to bring back those staff members who would like to work safely in the church for greater amounts of time. As such, we are developing guidelines for their return. Additionally, we have established a Pandemic Officer to help in coordinating these new protocols.

As we consider opening for worship, we have been holding fast to a few principles:

  • The pastors and the task force grieve the loss of our traditional worship and fellowship experience. Each of us feels the loss differently, but we know that the sense of our loss is palpable communally within the congregation, even at a physical distance.
  • The most vulnerable among us are our highest priority. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions are the most vulnerable to infection and death from the virus. We would err on the side of caution in all our decision-making, especially in thinking of those for whom the risk is highest.
  • Our congregation is regional, and we must use regional data in determining when it is safe to move forward. We are reviewing data from Allegheny County and benchmarking multiple indicators that will help us to determine when the risk decreases, enabling us to gather together. Our goal is to identify a date to re-open for worship once the data indicates a decline in COVID-19 cases for at least two weeks.
  • When we return to our sanctuary, worship will not look like it did prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. We anticipate that there will be changes in seating, entering and exiting the building, how music and responsive readings are handled, and how Communion is or is not celebrated. In addition, there may be limits on the number of people who can attend in person. With this in mind, and understanding that some may not feel comfortable returning immediately when we are able to open our doors, services will be made available online for those who are unable to worship on-site.

We ask for your prayers and your patience as we continue to work through the many details of re-opening amidst the changing data, both locally and globally, in this pandemic. We also express our sincere appreciation to the staff who have come alongside us in this work.

Sincerely,

The Back-to-Church Task Force of the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church
Elder Donald P. Coffelt Jr.; Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles; Elder Brigetta P. Del Re; Elder Robert J. Ferguson; Elder Carla M. Gedman; Elder James M. Gockley; Elder Robert B. Luthultz, chair; Reverend Lynn M. Portz; and Elder J. Alexander Viehman

Pastoral Letter

A COVID-19 Congregational Update

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As our world and our nation have navigated the past three months, we, your pastors, have had unique opportunities to share and pray with you through days of uncertainty, fear, sadness, and frustration. We also have been privileged to rejoice with you in moments of unexpected joy and beauty, times when God’s presence was clearly evident. We are writing, first of all, to remind you that Shadyside Presbyterian Church is here to walk with you and with our community through all that has happened, and is yet to come. With you, we grieve what has been lost: the handshakes and hugs, the spontaneous conversations and meals shared, the celebrations and milestones that have been put on hold. We long for the days when we will be together again in person, sharing in worship, fellowship, education, and mission as we always have. Indeed, we treasure those times, as we know you do.

Balanced with that longing comes a strong desire to do all that is possible to honor each of you by maintaining your health and safety. We want you to know that your Session is reviewing government and medical guidelines, and prayerfully discerning what it might look like — and when — to begin gradually coming back into our building. Please be assured that this will be carefully and faithfully considered, and we will communicate with you as plans emerge.

In the meantime, please know that although our offices are currently not open to the public, the Church of Jesus Christ is never “closed.” Indeed, the church staff and we, your pastors, continue to work remotely, and to be available to you. We are here for you, if you want to talk or pray or simply connect to share what is going on in your life. You can reach any of us by emailing us or calling the church and leaving a message.

Our life together continues to be vibrant and connected. It is exciting to see the ways that God is at work, bringing people together in creative ways. Bible studies, adult Christian Education classes, prayer groups, grief support group, and virtual coffee fellowships are meeting throughout the week, and you are welcome to join any and all of these. Along with our ongoing Children’s Ministry on Sundays, a virtual Vacation Bible School will bring God’s love to our children in a new and interactive way. Our youth are connecting virtually as never before. We continue in conversation and support with our mission partners in our community and around the world. Our summer music mini-series will begin in an online format soon. More information about any of these can be found on our website: www.shadysidepres.org.

If you have not yet visited Facebook or YouTube on Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. to worship with us, please be sure to do so. You will be joining with God’s people near and far to hear God’s Word, to pray together, and to sing praises to our Lord who reigns in highest heaven.

The details of our life together are still happening, as well. The financial office is able to receive your offerings, either by mail or online. Our annual congregational meeting will occur remotely on Sunday, June 14. (Details)

We, your pastors, dearly miss being with you all. We pray for you and for our church each day, looking forward to the time that we will see you again in person. But we know that this is God’s Church, and, even in these times, the Holy Spirit is breathing the wind of God’s grace and enthusiasm into God’s people, bringing new understandings of what it means to be the Body of Christ in this world. We are excited to see what God is doing in and with His Church, and to walk forward with you into God’s future.

To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.

Blessings and Peace,

Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor and Head of Staff
jdalles@shadysidepres.org

Rev. Lynn M. Portz
Associate Pastor for Parish Life
lportz@shadysidepres.org

Rev. Todd E. Leach
Associate Pastor for Missions
tleach@shadysidepres.org

Rev. Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith
Temporary Associate Pastor
ksmith@shadysidepres.org

Local Mission Partner Updates

Rev. Todd E. Leach
Rev. Todd E. Leach
Needs and Responses to COVID-19

Dear members and friends of Shadyside Presbyterian Church,

We have been in communication with our local partners regarding need and response to COVID-19. Many of our partners have already been impacted financially, with some having to lay off staff. In addition to concerns for their staff, they are greatly concerned for their clients. Their repeated and greatest request was for prayer, but that was soon followed by expressed need for funding. Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) will respond to financial needs as our budget allows, but below are ways you may be able to pray more specifically.

Grace & Peace,
Rev. Todd E. Leach, Associate Pastor for Missions

East End Cooperative Ministry

“Thank you for your prayers. We appreciate you thinking of us during this difficult time for all of us. Non-perishable food donations and monetary donations are always needed and welcome. We are seeing an increase in need for our pantry service due to clear shelves in the stores, and those who are experiencing poverty cannot go to the store and stock up. In addition, we feel as people are either out of work, or had reduction in their work hours, we also will see increased need for some time to come. I think we will get through this together, but it is not going to be easy for many.”

Foundation of Hope

“Currently, our biggest needs are prayer, donations, and financial support. The jail is still in need of paperback books and the Aftercare office can use toiletries and gift cards to Giant Eagle, etc. We expect the needs of our Aftercare offices to grow this year due to this crisis, and we may have to cancel our fundraiser, so the support of individuals and organizations during this time is crucial.”

Garfield Community Farm

“We’re currently experiencing weekly losses from our restaurant sales, and significant loss in the month of July from cancelled Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PTS) Summer Youth Institute (SYI) summer programming. But, we’re really excited to be able to donate food, starting this week, to families in Garfield who have been hit the hardest. Donations are our priority now, we’ll find ways to cover the finances as the year progresses.”

Hosanna House

“Your timing is perfect and quite overwhelming that you guys are thinking and reaching out. You are the first! Because of the extended length of time with our children off, we need to address that immediately regarding what tools and resources children and parents need for another few weeks. As of today [March 23], we are still open for essential services: health; dental; and women, infants, and children.”

Off the Floor Pittsburgh

“We initially thought we would close for about two weeks, but it is clear that will be much longer. After conferring with our board chair, Wes [Rohrer], over the weekend, it is expected at minimum we will not be able to return during April. So far, referrals have dropped off as partner agencies are also closed, and donors understand the limitations and they have backed off, as well.

“At this point, the best thing you can do is pray for us that we can survive this crisis and quickly return to a greater level of service. Pray for the wisdom to discern how we best make a comeback and that we can find the right people to be a part of our team moving forward.”

Open Hand Ministries

SPC has been in communication with Open Hand Ministries (OHM). OHM is concerned for its Circles teams, who are unable to gather during this time. They are attempting to forecast how their budget will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food security is a concern, and donations through their website can help to provide food for their clients.

Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery (POWER)

“Thanks so much for reaching out. I can’t tell you how much it means to know you and Shadyside Presbyterian Church members are keeping us in your prayers. We need them. The whole world needs them. I’m going to share your message for two reasons – one, we’ll talk and see if there’s anything we can think of that you might be able to help with. I will let you know. The second and most important reason I want to share it with all the staff is because I know it will mean so much to them. In times like this, hope and inspiration come in many forms, and I’m so grateful you and your congregation are offering to be that hope and inspiration for POWER and all of those we serve.

“Thank you too for recognizing that connection and relationships are key to recovery. Some believe that substance use problems are a symptom of isolation and disconnection. We’re being as creative as we can in trying to stay in touch with those who need us most.”

The Neighborhood Academy

“Today [March 23], we began our distance learning plan with our students. We also dropped off thirty-one meals to our students. We anticipate that number growing as the students and families speak with each other, and we are certainly happy to provide our families with the meals that they need during this difficult time.”

Staying Emotionally Healthy During COVID-19

Choices You Can Make to Stay Emotionally Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Detail of a caduceus in the 1968 bronze bas-relief by Virgil Cantini at Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Dedicated to Shadyside physician W.D. Richards, the artwork depicts the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment and was healed (Luke 8:43-48).In light of the recent stay-at-home order for Allegheny County issued by the governor, Shadyside Presbyterian Church shares with you suggestions to promote emotional health as we face an extended time of physical separation from our community of faith.

Pay Attention to Your Body and Your Emotions

It’s natural to experience stress and anxiety in the face of a threat we cannot control. Because every person reacts differently, notice what your body and emotions are telling you:

  • Listen to your emotions, noticing any anxiety, sadness, anger, or detachment;
  • Listen to your body, noticing any change in appetite, new aches and pains, or feeling particularly hot or cool; and,
  • When you notice troubling symptoms, pause to care for your body and mind. If you become unable to manage or function well, seek the assistance of a professional.

Embrace Best Health Practices

Though there’s much about the COVID-19 outbreak over which you have no control, you can choose to embrace the kinds of practices that will keep you and your loved ones safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Access Reliable Resources

You can choose how you will receive and consume information about the outbreak. If you rely on panicked phone calls from your anxious loved ones, you’re likely to suffer more than if you choose to rely on credible sources. Two reliable sources for health news include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. Also, if you become consumed by breaking news about the spread of COVID-19, you also can choose to step away from media reports for a time.

Share Reliable Information

Another way to care for yourself is to care for others by sharing the best information you’ve discovered. When you find a reputable resource that’s particularly helpful, share it with a loved one. When you learn about practices that keep people safe, let a relative who is vulnerable to illness know. In a culture where people are feeling anxious, you can be a gift to others.

Practice Self-Care

In the midst of a stressful season or situation, many self-care practices are the same ones that prove helpful in everyday living:

  • Maintain your normal routines.
  • Connect with family and friends.
  • Eat well.
  • Stay active.
  • Get adequate rest.
  • Do enjoyable activities.
  • Employ coping skills that nurture your spirit, like mindfulness exercises or prayer.

Support Each Other

We aren’t created to go through extreme stress alone, so this is also a time as part of God’s family to care for each other. Here are two questions to keep asking yourself:

  • What opportunities do I have to help others?
  • What is overwhelming right now that I should ask someone for help with?

While it feels like there is a lot we can’t control amidst concerns over COVID-19, every one of us can make choices to stay emotionally healthy.

Source: Wheaton College

Architectural Photograph: Detail of a caduceus in the 1968 bronze bas-relief by Virgil Cantini at Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Dedicated to Shadyside physician W.D. Richards, the artwork depicts the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment and was healed (Luke 8:43-48).